Yesterday, I received a text message from my father who said: “there was an attempt to kidnap a little Israeli girl in Disney World.”
The first thing that popped into my head at that moment was an infamous urban legend with the same title. The story of that urban legend tells of a young girl/boy who was kidnapped right underneath his/hers parents’ sight while vacationing at Disney World/Disneyland. According to the story, the child suddenly vanished, taken away in what is supposed to be the safest place in the world. When the parents find out their child is gone, they call security, which blocks the gates of the park, so that no one can enter or leave. All of a sudden, after long searches, the parents recognized their child. Her/ his head is shaved or colored, the clothes are different, but this kidnapper forgot to change the child’s shoes , and only by recognizing them, the parents are able to save him/her from leaving the park with the kidnapper. After the child is reunited with his parents, he is usually found to be doped up with blurry vision, and doesn’t remember a thing. The parents, obviously, refuse to be exposed while telling their story to the press, and sometimes threatened to sue Disney.
After browsing online, reading articles on almost every major Israeli news website, I came to realize this is one big hoax. The story was identical to the urban legend. Just in case, I Googled “child kidnap Disney” and came up with nothing. The only link which was relevant was one of a similar story, only this one ended with the exposure of the parents’ hoax by the press. By this time, I and most of the people who wrote comments to the online article figured out that this story was not true. Unfortunately, my father still refused to believe a story which appeared on the morning news, and on most news websites, was not verified properly. “But it was the news,” he said to me on the phone. A couple of hours later, it was out in the open: the story turned out to be fiction, and the reporter who was the first to publish the story was suspended until more details on the case will be revealed.
My guess was that she didn’t have enough stories for the morning broadcast, and there was a lot of pressure on her to find a story appropriate for the headlines. While missing a story, she came upon those parents who reported on the false case, following the urban legend’s smallest details. She probably didn’t have the time to verify the facts, and published the juicy story as is. I don’t think she will lose her job or be banished from all media forms. She was tricked and she fell into a trap, tempted by a sensational story. But with that, I can say it took me about five minutes to figure out the truth, by simply clicking “search”. There is no question on the matter: she really messed up, and gave us journalists a bad name. People recently started questioning our integrity and hard work, and I guess their claims may slowly form into something actual. This story is either sad or amusing. Not quite sure.